A close friend once described fugitive radio (and when it was initially formulating as Baracca do Sound System) as my ‘teenage-boy-fantasy-sound-system project’, which I went along with until I recently encountered Nik Nowak’s Schizo Sonics at KINDL Berlin.
Indeed, I had initially proposed to build some kind of mobile sound system — ‘a bicycle-mounted radio shack’ — and it may still come to fruition for Pixelache Festival, however fugitive radio seems to drift towards dispersal and the ephemeral, rather than the monumental and antagonistic. I am no stranger to the discourse of sonic weaponry and Nowak’s oeuvre has piqued my interest in the past at CTM. So as someone with an interest in sound system culture, it’s curious that Nowak’s sound sculptures have emerged as a counterpoint to what I now find myself pursuing. Below is a quick comparison of concerns:
Swarm Vs Stack
quotidian technologies at hand / customised industrial technologies
relatively accessible, low barrier to entry / requires access to equipment, skills & some expertise
ephemeral / monumental
guerilla dispersal / centralised soundclash
technology of the (performing) body / the body as driver of the machine
This suggests to me we are dealing with a different politics of space and dialectics when it comes to soundclash. At KINDL Schizo Sonics concerns histories and strategies of Cold War loudspeaker propaganda across a divided Berlin, with contemporaneous post-war sound system cultures in Jamaica acting as ‘the angle between two walls’, to cite A War of Decibels (2021) above. (Interestingly Nowak and his crew point to Hedley Jones, a Jamaican born musician, audio engineer, inventor, writer and trade-unionist who trained as a radar engineer with the British Royal Airforce and served during World War II. When Jones returned to Jamaica he began building amplifiers that were responsive to a much wider frequency range than those readily available, which he later incorporated into sound systems. He is considered one of the most important pioneers of sounds system electronics.) While a soundclash may present a dialectical war of ideologies, I think fugitive radio is concerned with a different politics of space and subjectivation.
Considering dispersed and covert forms of audio performance that I hope to produce in the near future, I was reminded today of discussions during the Onassis AiR School of Infinite Rehearsals: Movement I about how our group might enact different or new relations in the matrices of power we were entangled in as arts workers. Here Federica Bueti alerted us to Tina Campt’s discussion of refusal from her book Listening to Images (2017): ‘creative practices of refusal—nimble and strategic practices that undermine the categories of the dominant.’
I am also reminded again of the Sound Swarm protest performances devised by Grey Filastine that have occurred at numerous UN COP climate conferences, and also of cacerolazo noise protests in which agitators bang on pots and pans.
I am thinking about the ubiquity of blue tooth speakers and how a kind of ‘sonic entity’ might emerge, as political performance and even resistance, from what is at hand and everyday. Another example is the way people use bowls as resonating chambers to amplify the speakers on their mobile phones. For Pixelache Festival I would like to explore these improvised technologies and corporeal gestures further, to develop what I’ve discussed elsewhere as a ‘Choreography of Disobedience’.